April 7th, 2006

buzzed, B&W

Interesting Links

I don't have much to say about these, so I'm combining them into one post.

How I Work: Bill Gates - three monitors, heavy e-mail filtering, mainly uses e-mails, calendar, and desktop folders rather than to-do lists. It's interesting that Gates has trained himself to ignore the little "new email" thing in the corner of the screen. I've personally disabled all notification of new e-mail so it doesn't interrupt me. There was a study a while ago (which I can't find a link to now) that details how this increases productivity . . . Related to this, 43 Folders has some e-mail organizing tips

Creepy but Creative - Some nice Photoshop work combining fruit and animals
  • Current Music
    My Life With Thrill Kill Kult - Sex On Wheelz (WOXY.com [24k aac+])
buzzed, B&W

Word vs. PDF

It's always interesting to me when I have my blinder's exposed. I was at a meeting earlier this week, where someone mentioned to me that I should put some forms online in Word format, rather than PDF because some people can't open PDF. PDF is technically the more open format - Reader is a free download, and is available for multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc). While it's not a true, open format, the spec is public.

Word doc on the other hand is closed, with Microsoft not releasing the spec. In general, to open a Word file you have to have Word ($229 for the new user price) and it's only available for Windows and Mac. Granted, Microsoft does have a free Word Viewer, but I've never seen anyone use this.

I guess this is a good sign of how successful Microsoft has been in getting people so used to their software, that they think it's a superior format. Give schools the software at dirt cheap prices, get people to use it starting in kindergarten, and then that's all they know . . .
  • Current Music
    Massive Attack - Angel (WOXY.com [24k aac+])
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Download music, drop out of college . . .

Interesting perspective by a student who's been sued by the RIAA. For those who aren't familiar, the Recording Industry Association of America likes to sue people who download music.

The RIAA would much rather that you settle outside of the courtroom, paying some fee (which they'll argue is much less than the true amount you'd paid for the copyright infringement you've committed). In the case of this student, the amount is $3,750. You'll notice that this article is from the MIT Tech, the student paper. The student ends up talking to someone at the RIAA since she can't afford $3,750, much less a lawyer in a lawsuit. She finds out that the RIAA "make allowances if something like a medical emergency comes up."

She tries to argue that school is an extenuating circumstance as well, and gets the response "but you’re not in a situation like that" and followed up with "In fact, the RIAA has been known to suggest that students drop out of college or go to community college in order to be able to afford settlements."

The student's next line in the article echoes my sentiments: "Are. You. Shitting. Me." (All right, I wouldn't have used the profanity, but you get the point.)

I mean really, you expect someone to drop out of a prestigious school, rather than working out some kind of arrangement for them to pay? The RIAA would rather that you go to a lackluster institution, leading to a lower-paying job, which in the long run may result in you pirating more music . . . right . . . and that's ignoring the general evil of suggesting that someone should drop out of college for you . . .
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Mt. Helena

So, I went up Mount Helena on Tuesday (57 days after I broke my ankle). I hiked with Sarah and Nick, and the going was pretty slow. I was sucking wind, and my lower back was definitely feeling it, but it was nice to do it.

The ankle was definitely sore the next day and yesterday, but I'm not sure if that's because of the weather (we've had some pretty significant rain) or overuse. Man, I hope I don't end up being one of those people who's joints get all sore when the weather is changing . . .
  • Current Music
    The Watson Twins - Friend & Foe (WOXY.com [24k aac+])
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Email Notification and Productivity

So, I found this study (PDF) about email interruptions. The abstract:
The use of email by employees at the Danwood Group was studied and it was found that the interrupt effect from emails is more than generally believed. Employees allowed themselves to be interrupted almost as frequently as telephone calls and the common reaction to the arrival of an email is to react almost as quickly as they would respond to telephone calls. This means the interrupt effect is comparable with that of a telephone call. The recovery time from an email interruption was found to be significantly less than the published recovery time for telephone calls. It is to be concluded, therefore, that while Email is still less disruptive than the telephone, the way the majority of users handle their incoming email has been shown to give far more interruption than expected.

By analysing the data captured the authors have been able to create recommendations for a set of guidelines for email usage within the workplace that will increase employee efficiency by reducing the prominence of interruptions, restricting the use of email-to-all messages, setting-up the email application to display three lines of the email and to check for email less frequently. It is recommended that training should be given to staff on how to use email more effectively to increase employee productivity.


Anyway, I disable my notifications after reading something somewhere about how it helped productivity - and it really has helped mine. I still have a bad habit of unhiding my Start Menu to see if there's a new mail icon in the tray, but considering that's something I have to manually do, it's not an interruption that breaks up my thought process when I'm trying to code or in the middle of writing a document.
  • Current Music
    Elf Power - Peel Back The Moon, Bew.. (WOXY.com [24k aac+])
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Weird Conversations

Eek . . . I just heard a girl in this group of students sitting next to me say that she really wants to go to Rensselaer. From her description, it sounded like she was applying for this summer program.

I say eek since I know of Rensselaer through their medal program:
For more than 85 years, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in conjunction with high schools around the world, has awarded the Rensselaer Medal. This is awarded to promising secondary school juniors who have distinguished themselves in mathematics and science. The responsibility for selecting the Rensselaer Medalist belongs to faculty and staff within the participating secondary school.
When I got the medal, it was work $10k a year at RPI (though apparently it's now worth $15k). I don't know why someone would want to go to school in a dismal town like Troy, NY.

I knew a guy when I was co-oping at IBM that was an RPI student, and all he ever did was complain about how weird the school was - mainly because it was too stereotypically an engineering school - which is slightly ironic since he was sort of a stereotypical engineer.

On a related note, it's funny that I was having a conversation with a UMich alumna, and she kept ranting about how engineers were dorks, and then felt bad after she found out I was an engineer . . .
  • Current Music
    Cut Chemist - The Garden (WOXY.com [24k aac+])